Darrell's (dw1305's) soil thread

a1Matt

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Re: How its made - Oliver Knott's NatureSoil

dw1305 said:
There is also packaging (not sure about a picture of Luis with cheesy grin and his thumbs up? or possibly an official UKAPS product in a tasteful bag? we will have to see how testing goes)
Or a picture of Luis scratching his head (now where have I seen that before :lol: ).

Joking apart, hats off to you Darrel I'm impressed :D
 

plantbrain

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Most clay soils are fairly similar to ADA. The Delta clay in CA is almost exactly the same, but ADA's is enriched with NH4 whereas many clays tend to be lower in N.

Cooking it at higher temp is not required, fine if you want semi inert stuff I suppose, but semi soft clay is ideal, ADA's product is not cooked, it's dried a little to remove some of the moisture, then rolled to get the grain sizing.

If you want to oxidize, you can also boil and that will not cook the clay into hard material.
Also, simply screening it with a hose and water and letting it sit for awhile will oxidize most of the strongly reduced compounds. Then add to the tank's base layer and/or add osmocoat etc.

The rice farmers here get the highest yields in the world, they add only NH3 to the soil and then flood immediately after(kills the weeds this way without herbicides). Most of the old wetlands in CA are now rice paddies. I guess it's sort of okay since the paddies function a little like the old wetlands for birds, plenty of left over rice to eat and it's better than draining the land and farming row crops, or putting in yet another group of track homes in the flood zones :rolleyes:

The rice farmers really do not add much else fertilizer wise here though.
Not much need.

You want to retain some organic matter, about 5-10%, so cooking it completely might be fine if you like flourite, but you will get better growth with much less heat/boiling or natural processes.

I could easily give you 1 or 2 tonnes, and a few truck loads of manzy wood to boot.
Few plant hobbyists use the local stuff here though. :crazy:

Guess if it's from far off lands and packed in a special flashy bag, its got to be better
I know there's some decent natural soils there in the UK that should work just fine.




Regards,
Tom Barr
 

ghostsword

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Thanks Tom,

Great insight into this thread.

So basically I can get good soil, give it a wash, add trace to it and NH4, then bake it on the oven for a couple of hours to dry out?

I will try it this weekend, and see how it goes. No need to truck soil from god knows where if I can make my own at home!

Exciting stuff.. :D
 

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I can just imagine my wife's reaction as I bring in mud from the garden and put it into the oven.

Seriously though, won't you need to test the soil first? Some soils are high in lime that may play havoc with your water chemistry.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I've got economy "clumping cat litter" in one of the tanks at the moment, which looks to be 100% "Fullers Earth".
It was £6 for 20 litres, and is capped with play sand. The only problem is that it tends to end up in the water column, it isn't usually obviously cloudy, but the sponge on the filter in-take rapidly clogs up.

The stuff from the soil lab Luis had has had all the organic matter burnt out of it (it comes from the samples for measuring %OM), and any iron had been oxidised to Fe2O3 (the samples are brick red). It looks very like "Seramis", although in some cases as fist size lumps rather than small particles. The 2mm sieved stuff (prior to calcining) is almost identical to Seramis.

I'm going to try and get some local Gault clay (it was dug for brick making), with 10% added organic matter, added "Growmore" and the trace elements "frits" (from earlier in the post) and try calcining it at 500oC in the furnace, and also drying it at 100oC in the drying oven and see what happens.

cheers Darrel
 

plantbrain

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dw1305 said:
Hi all,
I've got economy "clumping cat litter" in one of the tanks at the moment, which looks to be 100% "Fullers Earth".
It was £6 for 20 litres, and is capped with play sand. The only problem is that it tends to end up in the water column, it isn't usually obviously cloudy, but the sponge on the filter in-take rapidly clogs up.

The stuff from the soil lab Luis had has had all the organic matter burnt out of it (it comes from the samples for measuring %OM), and any iron had been oxidised to Fe2O3 (the samples are brick red). It looks very like "Seramis", although in some cases as fist size lumps rather than small particles. The 2mm sieved stuff (prior to calcining) is almost identical to Seramis.

I'm going to try and get some local Gault clay (it was dug for brick making), with 10% added organic matter, added "Growmore" and the trace elements "frits" (from earlier in the post) and try calcining it at 500oC in the furnace, and also drying it at 100oC in the drying oven and see what happens.

cheers Darrel
Hi Darrel,

Is this to make a flourite like product or?
I'm not clear on the goal for roasting it.

Cat litter was promoted on line in the USA mostly by Dan Quackenbush, now deceased, and nice old hillbilly that had good common sense. You might check the Aquatic plant digest for good tidbits. I used it with excellent results in the past. I agree, it can make mess when up rooting, a bit too cloudy.

The heat will roast off the OM however.

Have you tried Worm castings???

http://www.aquahobby.com/tanks/e_tank0311b.php

They did not have any ferts or good sediments, so they made do with what they had.
Cheapo lights though, so cut those w/gal in 1/2.

We used WC with good results in the SF bay 2002-2004.
I think by then ADA had become more available.

DIY mineralized soil is gained a new popularity recently, maybe the last 1-2 years here.
I think the nice clays from the delta are cheaper and better alternative.
Main thing is sourcing a local source for soils and then be able to get it out to folks to try, or "sell kits" etc.
We can buy potting soils etc, then mix/post process etc.........but I think these tend to lack the nicer clay components, too much OM, thus the need to mineralize a lot.

Another idea is to do dilution mixing, basically instead of a 2-3 cm layer of rich clay/OM etc.........you take the same sand you will use as a cap, and mix 2/3 sand to this 1/3 soil layer, now making a 8-9cm deep layer more diluted.
Then cap this with 3 cm of plain sand. This reduces the % OM/richness/density, just spreads it out and allows more O2 to attack it. But it also keeps it in place better, not burping to the top etc.......and replanting/uprooting is a bit easier.

You might also Photosynthesize this:
Partial cooking on the outer layers of the rolled grains, leaving the inside grain "rare". This will semi harden the outer part, but leave the nice juicy ferts inside for the roots to get at.

ADA does a similar thing I think.
Keeps the cloudiness down.

Another company adds activated carbon to the clay also, AQUA UP in Oz I think.........real nice stuff, better than ADA IMO.

Still, a small outfit in the UK(or like Mr Knott) could make a product and sell it with a little R&D.
An inherent problem with all sediments: weight, shipping, volume. You do not make much $ for "dirt". Low profit margin etc. Traces? Pretty good $$ there.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Tom wrote
Is this to make a flourite like product or?"
Yes that was the idea. This thread came about because I had a lot of soil samples which had come from the small muffle furnace in the soil lab. This is set at 500oC so it produces an Akadama/Flourite/Seramis type particle. It started as a bit of fun, but when I thought about it, and it occurred to me that by changing the temperature of calcining and composition of the starting "clay" you probably could make a very good substrate. The thought was to produce an inert basic substrate with a reasonably high high CEC, and them possibly add an appropriate amount of Osmocote and organic matter to the finished product, I know from working with potting composts that it is easier to start with a low/no nutrient medium and add a known amount of nutrients, rather than starting with an unknown level and attempting to measure this. I'm not sure it would work out any cheaper than Akadama.

I did have a bit of a go with "worm worked manure" when I was still doing research into Spent Mushroom Compost (as a potting medium for nursery stock), it was all right as an additive, but it is back to the same problems of most organic wastes, of not knowing quite what elements it contains, it has a high conductivity and it drastically reduces air filled porosity if you add very much of it. Worm worked Pig manure was phytotoxic due to the concentration of copper Cu in it (derived from the food supplements fed to the pigs).

A local potato farmer has a worm business as well (fed on the potatoes that are unsuitable for sale) and he is bagging and selling the worm worked compost on a small scale.

cheers Darrel
 

ghostsword

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George Farmer said:
I can just imagine my wife's reaction as I bring in mud from the garden and put it into the oven.

Seriously though, won't you need to test the soil first? Some soils are high in lime that may play havoc with your water chemistry.
Test the soil? Soil is soil right? :)

What I intend to do is to mix following:
- B&Q Organic Living Peat Free Growing Bag @ £3 for 30kg
- Plain cat litter @ the £1 shop
- hair drying clay @ £10 for 12kg

Mix the above in equal parts then add trace mix, make a thin slab and put it on the oven for 2 hours, or for a large "order" leave it on the sun for a couple of days. :)

Cat litter will allow the clay to be broken in pieces and be porous, and clay will prevent the cat litter floating on the tank. A quick was will remove the soil that has not bonded with the cat litter and clay.

I am sure that the plants on their natural habitat got none of the fancy substrate at hand to grow on.

What I like about making my own substrate will be that I can actually match from where the plants come to what I plant them on.
 

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ghostsword said:
Test the soil? Soil is soil right? :)
That's a bit like saying water is water.

Please feel free to ignore my advice and don't test it. I hope it works well and you don't get huge ammonia spikes or pH fluctuations. :)

Don't get me wrong. I fully appreciate your enthuasism as a newcomer to the planted tank hobby, and I commend it, but sometimes it can prudent to listen to others who are trying to help and save you potential issues in the future. Also consider that these posts may be read by other beginners who may follow your lead without knowing the potential consequences if things go wrong.

ghostsword said:
What I like about making my own substrate will be that I can actually match from where the plants come to what I plant them on.
I don't understand this statement. Please elaborate.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I'd probably agree with George, on that it might be better to have a low lime starter clay. I'm not sure about the air drying clay either, I think a few people tried it for building "plec" caves and it soon disintegrated in the tank.

I'd also have a look at the "B&Q Organic Living Peat Free Growing Bag", most of the cheap peat free composts have a lot of wood chips in them, if it is really woody I think I might go for a 100% Coir compost, it is not so much that the wood or bark is bad, it will just float. The other problem may be if the grow bag contains "composted green waste", it tends to oxidise away fairly quickly so you may have problems with both it raising the BOD and releasing a lot of soluble salts.

What ratio of cat litter/clay/compost are you going to use Luis? and are you going to cap it with sand?

cheers Darrel

ps just had a look a the worm casing fertilised tank that Tom posted the link to. looked very good.
 

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George Farmer said:
ghostsword said:
Test the soil? Soil is soil right? :)
That's a bit like saying water is water.
Please feel free to ignore my advice and don't test it. I hope it works well and you don't get huge ammonia spikes or pH fluctuations. :)
And when did water stopped being water? Will water stop being H2O because we add nutrients to it? :D
I do understand the comment, and my reply is in jest, so no flaming please. :)

George Farmer said:
Don't get me wrong. I fully appreciate your enthuasism as a newcomer to the planted tank hobby, and I commend it, but sometimes it can prudent to listen to others who are trying to help and save you potential issues in the future. Also consider that these posts may be read by other beginners who may follow your lead without knowing the potential consequences if things go wrong.
I am happy that you appreciate my enthusiasm as a newcomer, and I do agree that it is prudent to listen to others who are trying to help out, but you have to agree that there is a time when one needs to try new things and break away from the pack.

I am sure that when EI was first being used, there were people that would advise against it, even now there still are others that do not believe the benefits.

If a beginner does not understand that the posts on this thread are related to trial and error and some experimentation, go ahead and use garden soil on their tank and have some issues, should I not post here my experiments from start to finish? Or are we to only post successes and not failure? Should I pre empt my posts with a disclaimer?

For example, now I am growing Marsilea Hirsuta and Lileaopsis on wood.

ghostsword said:
What I like about making my own substrate will be that I can actually match from where the plants come to what I plant them on.
I don't understand this statement. Please elaborate.[/quote] [/quote]

Ok, plants have diferent needs, some need more clay, others need more soil, some even need some peat or more acidic soil. On a tank that is hard to provide, but on a pot that becomes easy.
For example, from my experience, Amazon swords need heavy soils, I have even grown them on garden soil topped with gravel on my tank (and had no ammonia spike!). Wouldn't be great to have a specific soil for a specific plant?

Cryptocorynes, what soil do they like? Do they like peaty soils, do they like gravel, etc? :)

Just because others have not tried something, or advise against it, we should stop trying for ourselves. Only then we will learn, by trial and error and observation.

I appreciate others experiences, I have learnt lots on this forum from others errors and successes, but I like to learn and I like to try new techniques and ideas, as I am sure that there are lots still to be learn on how to take care of plants.
 

ghostsword

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dw1305 said:
Hi all,
I'd probably agree with George, on that it might be better to have a low lime starter clay. I'm not sure about the air drying clay either, I think a few people tried it for building "plec" caves and it soon disintegrated in the tank.

I'd also have a look at the "B&Q Organic Living Peat Free Growing Bag", most of the cheap peat free composts have a lot of wood chips in them, if it is really woody I think I might go for a 100% Coir compost, it is not so much that the wood or bark is bad, it will just float.

What ratio of cat litter/clay/compost are you going to use Luis? and are you going to cap it with sand?

cheers Darrel

ps just had a look a the worm casing fertilised tank that Tom posted the link to. looked very good.
Thanks Darrel,

Good idea on the Coir, maybe I could replace the soil with coir. I would like to not just use clay.

My reason for the cat litter would be to create some porous pieces, with the clay attached to it, something for the roots to take hold.

I am not sure about the ratio of clay to cat litter, I will have to try in small quantities. I could also replace the cat litter with clayballs common used on Hydrophonic setups, but they float, so hopefully by mixing with clay, then cooking it for a long period of time they would bond and stay down. Then I would just need to break it in pieces and grade it.

The worm casting fertilizer is good, and it works great for house plants, but I would need to test it on a tank with plants, ammonia can be an issue.

The soil will be capped with sand, or gravel, and as I use pots on my tank it would be easy to try different grades.

The soil you sent me is doing very good on a small tank, and it is keeping form. I got two pots with it, one has Rotalas and the other amazon plantlets. The amazon doubled in size in two weeks, and the rotalas are taking good hold. Was any iron content on that soil?
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
The soil you sent me is doing very good on a small tank, and it is keeping form. I got two pots with it, one has Rotalas and the other amazon plantlets. The amazon doubled in size in two weeks, and the rotalas are taking good hold. Was any iron content on that soil?"
We don't test the soils for iron (total iron either in the plant or soil doesn't have much correlation with chlorosis caused iron deficiency), but the brick red (this is the oxidised iron) colour tells you that there was some. If you get yellow or white particles after calcining a clay there wasn't any iron present.

I would be tempted to try about 10% coir and somewhere in the region of 30% clay, 60% cat litter. The cat litter is calcined "moler clay", so it should have many of the characteristics of "Hydroton" or "Hydroleca" (but it should sink).

I don't think the proportion of clay & cat litter will be critical.

cheers Darrel
 

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Luis,

I think there's some misunderstanding; there's certainly no intentional flaming.

I think the use of soil is potentially a great idea, which is why is split this thread, re-named it, and pinned it for others to benefit.

My suggestion was to merely test any soil prior to use, especially for lime.

All the best with the experiments. I look forward to following the results.
 

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George Farmer said:
Luis,

I think there's some misunderstanding; there's certainly no intentional flaming.
:) No mate.. I know that you weren't flaming, it was just so when others would read my comment that water is still water they would not get the wrong idea. ... Hard to explain things on forums and emails.. :)

For the record, before you someone tries this at home, I am testing the soils on two very small tanks, they are under 10L. If you put garden soil on your tank, not only you risk a algae bloom, but you will also risk killing your fish and living things on it. Some soils have quite nasty things on them, such as traces of copper, pesticides and god knows what else.
 

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dw1305 said:
I would be tempted to try about 10% coir and somewhere in the region of 30% clay, 60% cat litter. The cat litter is calcined "moler clay", so it should have many of the characteristics of "Hydroton" or "Hydroleca" (but it should sink).

I don't think the proportion of clay & cat litter will be critical.

cheers Darrel
Thanks Darrel,

I will try your recipe and let you know how it goes. What I am after is indeed something similar to Hydroton, but something that sinks, and keeps its shape for a while.

Should have all ingredients by end of week, will use a scale to measure the portions, so that if I find a suitable mix I can replicate it.
 

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If you want some simpler methods to test various soils, a group of small pots are the best.

Pots 1-4, soil #1.......all have a few of the same species, pick a wimpy plant.........
Pots 5-10 have soil #2
Pots 11-15 have soil # and so on........

You can evaluate some of the soil fair well with a sand cap, and also by doing frequent water changes to minimize the leaching into the water effect.

Measure the total increase in stem length and dry weight if you have a good accurate scale.
Be care to clip the roots and shoot and very gently wash and remove the soil before drying.

Give the test about 8 weeks.

Darrel(or anyone else with a pond access etc) should be able to do this easily in a pond.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 
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